ROANOKE VALLEY, Va. (WFXR) — The Hands-Free Virginia Law went into effect on January 1. Some law enforcement agencies eased into writing citations, while others cracked down abruptly.
Deputy Sheriff David Moyer started his new role with the Botetourt County Sheriff’s Office in February. Part of that role is heading up the Traffic and Safety Division.
He said he has been focusing his resources on the Hands-Free Virginia Law, which states:
It is unlawful for any person to operate a moving motor vehicle on the highways in the Commonwealth while using any handheld personal communications device to:
1. Manually enter multiple letters or text in the device as a means of communicating with another person; or
2. Read any email or text message transmitted to the device or stored within the device, provided that this prohibition shall not apply to any name or number stored within the device nor to any caller identification information.
B. It is unlawful for any person while driving a moving motor vehicle in a highway work zone to hold in his hand a handheld personal communications device.Code of Virginia
Moyer says it’s time to start giving citations.
“It’s a problem when we start to see the accident data jump up and it’s time to start giving tickets, and that’s where we’re at.”
Initially, the department tried to educate drivers and give warnings.
“We’re also giving motorists time to comply with the new law before we really start to strengthen our stronghold and start writing a lot of tickets,” Moyer said.
He explained, starting this month, they have begun to give tickets to violators. Three have been given in some far in the month of March.
In Roanoke City and Roanoke County, their departments took a more direct approach. Roanoke City has written almost 100 since Jan. 1, and the Roanoke County Police Department has written more than 100.
According to Moyer, the Hands-Free Virginia Law is meant to benefit our safety, but there are some exceptions. If you’re stopped at a stoplight, you can have your phone in your hand, but you should know what’s going on around you.
There are some other exceptions to the law as well:
1. The operator of any emergency vehicle while he is engaged in the performance of his official duties;Code of Virginia
2. An operator who is lawfully parked or stopped;
3. The use of factory-installed or aftermarket global positioning systems (GPS) or wireless communications devices used to transmit or receive data as part of a digital dispatch system; or
4. Any person using a handheld personal communications device to report an emergency.
The grace period is over, Moyer said.
A first offense is a fine of $125, a second offense is $250, and a violation in a work zone is punishable by a mandatory fine of $250.